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Johnny English - Miller/Howitt Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

JOHNNY English director, Peter Howitt, and co-star, Ben Miller, discuss the making of the movie at the London press conference to the comedy...

Q. In the production notes, it says you were busily working on another project in Los Angeles when you got a call from Rowan suggesting you might like to go over this particular script. Can you take the ball and run with it?
Peter Howitt: I was finishing off a film called AntiTrust, which about four and a half people went to see. Rowan and I had actually met a few years before; after I'd finished Sliding Doors, me and a pal of mine had adapted David Copperfield - not the magician, as the people in America thought - and indeed, we thought Rowan would be fantastic as Mr Micawber.
So, we asked him if he'd be interested to do that, and he said he would, but sadly we didn't get the money to make that film and so we sort of went our separate ways, and indeed I got a call from Rowan while I was in LA, cutting AntiTrust, and he asked me if I would have a look at the script and tell him what I thought, which I did, and then a couple of months later, he rather flatteringly asked me if I would like to direct it and I said 'of course, I would'. I still don't know why, and I don't think he does either.

You seem to take your performance down a notch or two, to create a nice partnership without each of you vying for the laughs...
Ben Miller: It's funny, I was never that conscious of a process. All I was concerned with, was to just try and react to Rowan in the same way that I felt that someone, genuinely, in real life, if they were in that situation, would react. I wasn't acting, really, I just used to watch Rowan and whatever came into my head, I went along with.
Funnily enough, I think that Bough is kind of trying to incorporate whatever new bit of Johnny English behaviour has just happened into some kind of picture of a normal person. So he is just really trying desperately to believe that Johnny English knows exactly what he is doing. If I had any kind of method for what I was doing, then that was it.

Q. Has attending spy school left you totally paranoid, or did you learn something from it? If you took a truth drug, what would you be worried about divulging?
Ben Miller: Well, firstly, I think I'm the first actor in the history of film to research my role after the film has been finished. It's true, I did go to spy school and it was a horrific experience. What I was really frightened of was not any of the dangers that we were taught to handle at spy school, but the people that ran it; They were just a terrifying bunch of ex-servicemen and, for all I know, full-time mercenaries.
As for the second part of your question, I'm going to pretend I've forgotten it. But I guess my sexual history. I think that will probably be the thing that everybody tries to forget; and it would definitely be very, very interesting.

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